A welcome move

SPECIALIST INTELLIGENCE CADRE : Intelligence functions merit specialisation and a professional approach to deal more effectively with diverse nature

The Government of Karnataka has finally decided to create a specialist intelligence cadre to support the State Intelligence Department of the Karnataka Police. Karnataka now joins other states like Gujarat and Punjab which have similar specialist intelligence departments.

The Karnataka Police first initiated the move in 2008 to directly recruit sub-inspector level officers into the Intelligence Department but thereafter the matter went into cold storage.

The rank and file of the Karnataka Police fraternity perceives the Intelligence Department as a punishment posting without the power or prestige associated with the khaki uniform. Police personnel who work in the Intelligence Department are not in executive positions which involve direct public interface. Therefore, these police personnel just tend to mark their time in the Intelligence Department till they are able to exit from there into executive appointments. This results in a lack of professionalism and poor passion for the job function.

To that extent, the Intelligence Department of the Karnataka Police has not proved effective because of the lack of specialised training and continuity of tenure of its officers. Therefore, a specia­list intelligence cadre, which forms the nucleus of the Intelligence Department, would not have its personnel transferred to other streams of active policing like law and order, crime, traffic or CID.

This continuity of tenure in the Intelligence Department would over time help cultivate sources in the underworld and penetrate terrorist groups. Eventually this would translate into the ability to generate some level of predictive intelligence to indicate the time, target and technique of a proposed terror assault in Karnataka.

Bengaluru, which is an engine of economic growth, attracts foreign nationals from across the globe, engaged in various sectors of the economy from marketing and services to manufacturing and research and development.

Over the past couple of decades, the state economy prospers thanks to the many multinational corporations, Information Technology majors, besides several R&D units located in the capital city that have brought prosperity to the state.

Besides, Karnataka has proved to be an education destination which attracts several thousand foreign students. All this economic growth brings with it attendant security vulnerabilities.

This is evident from the fact that in January 2007, the Karnataka Police arrested Imran Jalal in Bengaluru near the Cantonment railway station. He operated like a spy and established his cover over the years as a handicrafts trader in Hosapete, near the tourist town of Hampi.

Otherwise, he belongs to Hazaratbal, Srinagar and had come to Bengaluru from Hampi to survey security at airport and major IT facilities. The police seized an AK-56 assault rifle, 200 live rounds of ammunition, five hand grenades and two magazines of AK-56 from his house. Also Imran had reportedly undergone arms training in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Similarly, in October 2006, the Karnataka Police arrested two Pakistan-trained Al Badr terrorists in Mysuru. Their mission was to plan an attack on the seat of state government — Vidhana Soudha building in the state capital.

Importantly, the Indian Institute of Science in the city was the focus of a terror attack in December 2005 which brought the technopolis into the terrorist cross hairs for the first time.

Another national security concern is that Bengaluru  has become a sanctuary for Bodo and Manipuri militants, which have a large migrant population from the Northeastern region, where they can merge with the community and avoid easy detection from law enforcement agencies. Moreover, way back in 1993 the Karnataka Police had arrested some JKLF activists in the capital.

Clearly, all this suggests that Karnataka is no longer secure from externally fostered internal security threats like terrorism despite its distance from the borders. The fact that Pakistan-trained terrorists have shifted their focus from border-states like Jammu & Kashmir to southern cities like Bengaluru clearly highlights the need for a heightened vigil here.

Intelligence as the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of the police is the first line of security to forewarn and fore arm the police to prepare for a specified eventuality rather than be taken by surprise.

For instance, the failure of law and order in the aftermath of cine star Raj Kumar’s death in April 2006 was a terrible fiasco. In 2016, the garment workers protests, the Karnataka Police strike and Cauvery riots which led to curfew across 17 police station jurisdictions all suggest intelligence failure. All these indicate there is a dire need for a specialist intelligence cadre to staff the Intelligence Department.

Regular training

The directly recruited sub-inspectors would undergo regular police training for about a year. Thereafter they would have to be imparted basic tradecraft skills in surveillance and other activity, at the Intelligence Bureau Training School at New Delhi.

Perhaps these newly minted intelligence officers would also be required to undergo a capsule course on counter-terrorism at the National Security Guards Training Centre at Manesar, Gurgaon.

While the central intelligence agencies like the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau and the Military Intelligence also operate in Karnataka, they have a different mandate. However, a professional Karnataka Police Intelligence Department would be able to ensure a more meaningful interaction with these central intelligence agencies.
Therefore, a specialist Intelligence Department focused solely on Karnataka would undoubtedly prove useful to promote public security interests.

For far too long, state governments have treated intelligence-gathering as a sub function of police work. This is a legacy of the erstwhile British Raj. In today’s borderless world, the political leadership needs to acknowledge that intelligence functions merit specialisation and a professional approach to deal more effectively with diverse nature of threats to state and society.

(The writer is Professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies, Christ University, Bengaluru)

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